This awesome guest post was written by Aamar Khwaja, Inventor of modgarden (Mod Garden). Aamar is a health advocate and on a mission to see everyone eat healthily!
Two of the leading causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. For many dealing with these serious illnesses, treatment options are limited and often discouraging. However, there are multiple natural and alternative herbs and spices that have been known for helping reduce the risk of dementia. Of course, as with all preventative medicines, it is important to start with a full-body picture and work from all angles to improve and strengthen the overall individual’s health picture. Contribute to your overall health by eating a healthy, whole foods, organic diet. As always, be sure to consult with your natural health practitioner to ensure that any additional supplements or herbs are safe.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?
An estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a severe form of dementia. Data suggests that over half a million Americans die from Alzheimer’s disease each year which makes it the third leading cause of death in the United States (1, 2). For many, the prospect of losing your mind and along with it, your personality, is terrifying. Although there isn’t a conventional cure for Alzheimer’s, there is plenty of hope surrounding the disease in regards to preventative medicine. The driving forces of the onset of Alzheimer’s tend to be mainly lifestyle factors, such as diet. There are connections between Alzheimer’s and dietary-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
According to Dr. David Perlmutter, an integrative medicine neurologist and author of the New York Times’ bestseller, Grain Brain, Alzheimer’s is preventable through proper diet. He says that “diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, and similarly diets that are low in fat, are devastating to the brain. When you have a diet that has carbohydrates in it, you are paving the way for Alzheimer’s disease.” Perlmutter’s book reveals how and why sugars and carbohydrates have such a negative impact on the brain as well as how to eat in a way that benefits and strengthens the brain.
What Helps Brain Health
Ancestrally, the diet of humans was very high in saturated fats and essentially void of carbohydrates. Unfortunately for our health, today we consume very, very high amounts of carbohydrates that are refined and highly processed. In addition, over the last decade, there has been an increase in genetically-modified grains and sugars which also has had a negative effect on health. Today, there tends to be a phobia of fats—however, some fats are not only great for your body but even essential to your brain’s health and functions.
Not all fats are healthy, though, you should try to avoid all trans fats or hydrogenated fats that have been modified. This frequently includes vegetable oils, margarine, and butter replacements. Healthy fats include avocados, coconut oil, organic nut oils, butter, raw dairy, raw nuts, and much more.
To optimize brain health in order to aid in Alzheimer’s prevention, avoid sugar and refined fructose. It is best to keep sugar levels at a minimum, particularly for those who suffer from insulin-related disorders. It can also be wise to avoid gluten, as research has shown that gluten can have negative effects on the brain region.
In addition to increasing gut flora and improving your overall diet in efforts to give your brain a little bit of help, there are a few herbs that can help with preventing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia from occurring.
You’re probably already familiar with some of the numerous benefits of turmeric, an ancient Indian herb used prominently in Ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine. Turmeric has been studied extensively for its use in treating cystic fibrosis, gastric ulcers, colon and breast cancer, liver diseases, and arthritis. Turmeric’s key component is curcumin, which can help stave off dementia and even lessen symptoms of current dementia patients. Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia occur much less frequently in the elderly of India than in the elderly of America—and it seems that turmeric, a spice often used in India cuisine, may be the key to this statistic.
According to Duke University, turmeric works by blocking the formation of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloids are proteins that have been found to be responsible for the plaque that hinders brain function in those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (3).
Gingko Biloba extract is one of the most popular herbal remedies for dementia and cognitive impairment. Not only is ginkgo the world’s oldest living tree species, but it also has a long history of use in treating blood disorders, memory issues, and patients suffering from cerebral vascular insufficiency. Ginkgo works by increasing circulation by opening up blood vessels, thus making it beneficial in vein and eye health. Ginkgo also contains flavonoids and terpenoids, both of which are antioxidants (4).
3. Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry)
Ashwagandha, commonly known as Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, is a small perennial herb that originated in India and has been used in India’s Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It is often used for stress reduction and improved energy, however, in recent years, studies have shown that the herb may be helpful in fighting off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Researchers at the National Brain Research Center (NBRC) found that ashwagandha may reverse memory and improve overall cognitive abilities in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. They found a reduction of amyloid plaques (responsible for degrading the wiring of the brain cells) (5).
Ginseng, a Chinese herb, has been used in China for thousands of years to help with disease prevention and aid in the negative effects of aging. Several years ago, a study reported that patients with mild to moderate dementia received ginseng extract and showed significant memory improvement. Recently, researchers at the Kyung Hee University found that black ginseng is useful in protecting against neuronal and cognitive impairment and could potentially be used to help vascular dementia (6,7).
5. Chinese Club Moss
Last but not least, Chinese club moss has been used in preventative medicine for a compound called huperzine A. In a study published several years, researchers gave patients this compound for eight weeks. Over half the patients studied showed improved memory and cognitive abilities.
Although Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are discouraging diseases to deal with and understand due to the limited conventional treatment options available today, there are plenty of positive opportunities for both preventing and perhaps helping with symptoms of dementia. Over the next few years, hopefully, more progress will be made to understand the many alternative ways to both prevent and treat this disease.
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